It is with great pleasure that I address today, the high level Forum for the One Belt One Road project, said Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras speaking to the forum in Beijing on Sunday.
A far-reaching 21st initiative, building on the wisdom of the ancient Chinese concept of the Silk Road. I congratulate China and personally President Xi Jinping for his vision and for his warm hospitality in hosting this Forum. And I want to underline the great importance that such a vision has, in our times. At times when all of us around this table face increasing global and regional challenges: in the economic and financial system, in human mobility and migration, in security and regional stability. In these times – when the temptation is great to respond to the crises of globalization by increasing isolation [and protectionism] and by raising walls – this initiative highlights a vision of connectivity, cooperation and dialogue across Europe and Asia, but also other parts of the world.
In this context, we believe that it is becoming a crucial vehicle for expanding economic growth, trade and investment. It is crucial for maximizing investment synergies and promoting trade, transport, energy and telecommunications networks, through projects that can have a big impact on national economies. On this basis, we will actively support that the Initiative pays due attention to strengthening scientific and technological innovation, as well as integrating small and medium-sized enterprises in global value chains. Furthermore, we are convinced that coordination with other regional frameworks such as ASEM, the EU-China Connectivity platform, or China-Europe Land-Sea Express Route will add value to the initiative.
Of course, while always promoting a rules-based, transparent and inclusive international trading system, with the World Trade Organization at its core. What is particularly positive for us is that the goals of the Belt and Road Initiative are compatible with our own regional economic goals. And our dynamic, comprehensive, strategic partnership with China sets a solid basis for working in this direction. Greece – after many years of severe crises – is returning to a growth path which opens up remarkable opportunities for investment and trade. My country is once again taking full advantage of its unique geopolitical identity as a country of Europe, the Mediterranean, the Balkans and the broader Black Sea region, but also as a maritime country with potential for advancing relations, far beyond its neighbourhood.
In this framework Greece is expanding its role as an important regional hub in the fields of trade, transport, energy, telecommunications, logistics, culture and tourism. The Greek people have lived at the crossroads of three continents for thousands of years, trading, working and migrating all over the world. As a country with a rich cultural heritage and a world leader in the tourist industry, we highly value the importance of this initiative, for people-to people contacts, cultural exchanges and tourism.
This year is the Greek-Chinese cultural exchange year, a few weeks ago we cooperated closely on setting up the first Ministerial Conference of the Ancient Civilizations Forum, while -in the field of tourism – direct flights between Greece and China will be starting very soon. As a leading maritime country, looking for new trade routes, we see the great opportunities in the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. An increasing number of Greek shipowners build their ships in China, while our biggest port – the port of Piraeus where a very important investment by COSCO has been made – is becoming a global gateway to Europe for products coming from Chinese and other Asian ports, including through the Suez Canal. From Piraeus port, the merchandise can easily be transported by rail to many destinations in the Balkans and in Central Europe. In this spirit, 2015 was the Greek-Chinese maritime year, China will be the main guest country in this years Thessaloniki Trade Festival, while we are working hard on new regional infrastructure projects. Finally, on a diplomatic level, we consider that this multilateral forum sets the ground for important new initiatives.
Greece is in any case actively promoting ambitious diplomatic initiatives for cooperation and dialogue, on the basis of international law, with all the countries of our broader region. And we see important potential for establishing triangular relations around infrastructure projects in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean. In this framework, Mr President, I would like to once again thank you for today’s very important forum and underline the importance that Greece attaches to the development of the Belt and Road Initiative.